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Archive for Friday, October 18, 1996

TAXPAYERS FOOT BILL FOR DISPUTE

October 18, 1996

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A brouhaha over illegal private road variances has been settled out of court.

It cost Douglas County taxpayers $3,500 this week to end a yearlong dispute over how many rural homes may be built on a private road.

In the face of almost certain litigation, county commissioners agreed Wednesday to take steps to bring four property owners into legal compliance with the Lawrence-Douglas County Subdivision Regulations. The cash part of the settlement represents legal fees the property owners incurred doing battle with the county.

``This settlement is intended to address a unique and specific fact situation,'' said County Counselor Terry Nuckolls. ``It avoids potential litigation that I believe the county would eventually win but which would cost the county more in time and money.''

The property owners had received permission from the county commission to put four houses on a private road when only three were allowed under subdivision regulations.

When county officials realized a year ago that the commission had no legal authority to grant the variances from the regulations, property owners found themselves with potential title problems that could have prevented them from selling off tracts and from being able to get building permits for future construction.

Property owners who will be covered by the settlement are: Gleason and Patricia Gregory; Mark and LaDonna Russell; Patrick and Erin Callahan Russell; and David R. and Patricia Franz.

County commissioners also will temporarily amend the subdivision regulations so they can accept plats for the four properties and issue building permits.

The plats, which must be filed by Dec. 4, will show five lots, including four homesites and a strip that will be used in lieu of a road easement for ingress and egress to the homesites. That fifth lot will be commonly owned by the owners of the other lots, who also must maintain the road.

Nuckolls said the timeline set out in the amendment is so tight that other property owners probably wouldn't be able to use the special provision to sidestep the private road restrictions before it sunsets.

In addition to paying the attorney's fees, the county commission also is instructing its engineering staff to prepare the plats. The property owners already have had their land surveyed at their own expense.

County Administrator Craig Weinaug said that for various reasons it wasn't possible for these property owners to solve their problem by reconfiguring the lots and access points.

``In at least one case a house already was built,'' Weinaug said.

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